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Florida State Seminoles 2017 Spring Football Preview

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Florida State gets back to the grind on Monday as the Seminoles open spring practice. FSU is coming off another top-10 finish after winning its final five games of 2016 capped by a 33-32 victory over Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

NCAAF Rankings: FSU QB

Head coach Jimbo Fisher and company are looking forward to another productive season and again, the 2017 campaign begins with national championship aspirations. For that to come to fruition, a number of questions will have to be answered and some of them could come as early as spring.

5 Storylines to Watch During Florida State’s Spring Practice

1. Who will back up Deondre Francois?
With Sean Maguire graduated and Malik Henry having transferred, Florida State returns just two scholarship quarterbacks. Fortunately for FSU, one of them is returning starter and reigning ACC Rookie of the Year, Deondre Francois. Who sits behind Francois on the depth chart however is an enormous question mark, but one that could be answered in the spring.

JJ Consentino is a redshirt junior with the right build (6-4, 240) for the position. In his limited experience however, Consentino has looked mostly like a deer in the headlights. Early enrollee and lefty Bailey Hockman could put some pressure on Consentino this spring as could walk-on Jake Rizzo. In the fall, FSU will welcome in another signal-caller in James Blackman.

2. How will FSU replace Dalvin Cook?
Last season, Cook obliterated the FSU rushing record book, becoming the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns and needing just three seasons to do so. In the process, he was named a unanimous All-American. Cook declared for the NFL Draft and will likely be a first-round pick in late April.

The heir apparent to Cook is junior Jacques Patrick. Patrick has performed admirably spelling Cook over his first two seasons, but the role of primary back isn’t just going to fall into his lap. Amir Rasul, a sophomore, is a speedster that FSU is very high on. The Seminoles also have a couple seniors at the position in Johnathan Vickers and Ryan Green who could vie for time. The biggest competition however, may come from early enrollee and high school All-American Cam Akers. The Mississippi prospect is the total package and should compete for playing time right away.

Related: College Football's Top 15 Impact True Freshmen for 2017

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3. Can FSU find the right combination up front?
After five different starting combinations on the offensive line in 2015, the Seminoles used seven last season. With Roderick Johnson declaring early for the NFL Draft and Landon Dickerson recovering from a season-ending knee injury, just about every spot up front is up for grabs. Dickerson is expected to be recovered by the summer and should start next season, but the question will be whether he remains at guard or moves to Johnson’s left tackle spot.

Cole Minshew played well at the end of the year and will likely man one of the two guard positions. Other candidates to play inside include Derrick Kelly, Baveon Johnson and Andrew Boselli. With Ryan Hoefeld quitting football, Johnson and Boselli are also expected to battle incumbent Alec Eberle for the starting center position. At tackle, Rick Leonard could again man the right side, but others vying for a starting spot include Abdul Bello and Jauan Williams.

4. How does FSU replace DeMarcus Walker?
Dalvin Cook is not the only consensus All-American that the Seminoles will need to find a way to replace. The other is Walker, the defensive end who recorded 16 sacks as a senior to finish third in school history in that category. The most likely scenario for replacing Walker is moving junior Josh Sweat over from his “BUCK” position and filling that hole with Jacob Pugh or Brian Burns.

Other options at the defensive end positon however include defensive tackle Wally Aime, early enrollee and high school All-American Joshua Kaindoh or highly-touted redshirt freshman Janarius Robinson. The good news for FSU is that it has a number of options in filling the void left behind by Walker and all seem to be pretty good ones.

5. Can Derwin James return to form?
James was expected to be an All-American in 2016, but a tear to his meniscus in the home opener kept the redshirt sophomore out for the remainder of the season. As a freshman in 2015, James did essentially everything for the Seminoles, ranking first or second on the team in solo tackles, total tackles, tackles for a loss, sacks and forced fumbles.

James is the complete package when it comes to playing safety. He’s heady in pass protection, physical against the run and an excellent blitzer. For FSU to be as good as it hopes it can be in 2017, having James healthy is an absolute must.

Pre-Spring Outlook for Florida State in the ACC

After a top-10 finish and Orange Bowl victory, Florida State looks to take the next step and fight for a College Football Playoff spot in 2017. Quarterback Deondre Francois, last season's ACC Rookie of the Year, returns under center for the Seminoles. FSU also will bring back nine starters on defense. One thing FSU won't be happy about having to do is replace a pair of consensus All-Americans in running back Dalvin Cook and defensive end DeMarcus Walker. The Seminoles are bringing in a slew of young talent with another top-10 recruiting class, which includes seven players who enrolled early.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.